Hobbes and Locke

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Thomas Hobbes and John Locke both sought to explain the behavior of humans in the purest form. In comparing and contrasting their theories, one begins to realize the extent to which these philosophers agreed and disagreed. While Hobbes states that human nature is malicious and requires a sovereign, Locke explains how humans are benelovant and pastoral with no motivation to advance.

In Hobbes’ theory of a natural state, people live with no sense of government or law, forcing society into chaos and a war where “every man [is] against every man” (Hobbes 1651:3). Without the constraints of an institution, people begin to reveal their most unpleasant virtues. The three “principal causes of quarrel” include competition, diffidence and glory (Hobbes 1651:2). In order to control these causes, Hobbes proposes a sovereign with the ability to preside over all. He proposes a Leviathan with which the people can create a social contract and increase their probability of self-preservation. In return for its protection, the Leviathan assumes the power over all through violence, resulting in contracts of fear. Ensuing from the contract with the Leviathan, society understands that “a kingdom divided in itself cannot stand” (Hobbes 1651:7). Similar to the covenant between Rome and the Romans, however, if their sovereign fails to uphold its conditions of safety and security, the commonwealth can justify his disposal. In summary, Hobbes’ believes that a successful society is one that prevents people from experiencing complete freedom, simply because they cannot handle this privilege.

In comparison, Locke states that the main concern for society is the placement of property rights. In a natural state, people are equal to one another and thus have no chance to progress. Just as Hobbes recommended the Leviathan, Locke presents the placement of property as an ideal solution. Locke believes that people are able to reason, and therefore understand what is morally right and wrong. This...
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